Except for the rain, and the explosions of thunder, it really was quite a calm evening in Fossil Valley. Sergeant Bill Davis had patrol over the lower area, and on each entrance to the Valley he could see his comrades, Sergeant Frank Welsh and Sergeant Thomas Gefford. There was also Corporal Matra Molon guarding the entrance to the upper lair of the valley, where the skeletal remains of a dragon still rested, so it was unlikely that anyone would be passing by that area so casually.
It was a calm storm that blew down upon the valley that day. There was a soft wind, slightly cool and invigorating, and it brought with it a steady but gentle rainfall. As the waters cleansed the air and the surface of the earth, distant claps of thunder lit the sky up with blazing lights and serpentine fingers of lightning. The flashes of light made the dark valley visible every once in awhile, and most of the annoying dingoes that populated that area were hiding in their caves and shelters.
Sergeant Bill Davis was not necessarily bored with patrolling a wet valley. This was his usual duty, and by the time he had been guarding the place for a year, he was used to the lack of activity. Then again, people from Termina and Arni were always coming and going, so in fact he and his friends were never really out of work. He knew that even the rain would not stop a small stream of travelers, mostly merchants and traders, from making the trip north and south. He sniffled up something and bounced his pike in his hands, and sought relief from the gentle rain underneath a canopy that had been constructed recently.
“Bored?” asked one of his companions, holding his hands close to a small flame. Davis nodded his head.
“Yeah. But hey, it’s better to be here than you-know-where, with you-know-who.”
“Oh yeah, no doubt!” agreed the other man. “I’d rather be anywhere except there, and I’d rather be with anyone except them! They can’t do anything right!”
“Only when it really matters,” corrected Davis as he warmed himself by the fire. “But even then…”
“For real. I don’t know why Sir Karsh took them in. Pity, perhaps?”
“If it was, then he’s a lot kinder than we all thought,” replied Davis. He and his companion were silent for awhile, as they listened to the rain and thunder outside, and the muted crackling of the fire. Patrolling Fossil Valley in the rain was a pretty glum job, but there were worse places to be in, and worse people to be with.
“Heeeeeeeeeere, goblin-goblin-goblin! Niiiiiiiiice goblin-goblin-goblin! Come to Peppor!” A stout, silly, and altogether ridiculous-looking man waded through the wet bog of Hydra Marshes, his armor and clothes already hopelessly soaked from the messy trek. He was casually holding a silver axe in his hand, and if he wasn’t purposely wandering around that polluted old place, one might’ve thought that he was lost. His name was Peppor Shaker, and he was looking for a certain goblin that had caused trouble to the people of Arni.
“It’s shaking hopeless!” he wailed after a few more minutes of looking around. “I-I’m not gonna find any shaking goblin around here! Th-this place is really shaking big! I-I think I’m lost in here! Humph, I-I wonder if Solt has shaken up anything yet…” Peppor sighed wearily, and if he hadn’t been standing in a pool of muck just then, he would have sat down and taken a rest.
Meanwhile, in another part of the adulterated swamp, a tall, thin, and lanky man piddled around the strange growth of fungus-like trees. He had been in these marshes before, but that had been with many more people, and upon the request of the eccentric scientist Luccia. Now, aside from his brother, he was all by himself in a bog that wasn’t exactly the safest place in the world. He had left his older sibling to take care of the swamps and marshes below, while he ventured up onwards, climbing the bizarre plants and stalks until he came to the higher levels. He was looking for the very same goblin, and currently, he was failing.
“What a miserably miserable turn of events!” he lamented out loud. “Not only have I utterly lost the wickedly wicked goblin that I’ve been pursuing, I’ve also lost myself! I don’t recall any of this environment from the expedition…” The poor tall man muttered a few more less-than-cordial phrases, then clanked along the rocky path with his golden armor showing the wear and his spear limply being supported. He sighed, and wished to find an end to the task.
“I’ll bet that Peppor is just as lost as I am,” he muttered as he sat down on a protruding root-like object. “It’s hopelessly hopeless! I don’t see why Sir Karsh asked us to search this dreadfully dreadful marsh for a being that might not even be here! …Well, then again, there were those disagreeably disagreeable reports from Arni, and I can’t dismiss those…” Warily, Solt Shaker stood up once again, adjusted his spear to a more suitable position, and marched onward.
“If I recall correctly correct,” he said to himself, “the expedition team did indeed split up into two groups. One went into the swampy swamps, where Peppor is now, and the others journeyed up to the location where I am currently current. This festering marsh is dangerously dangerous, but I’m at least glad that it’s small. I suppose that if I do not find anything within five more minutes, I will go back down and tell Peppor the news! Then we’ll see what I can’t discover at the bottom!” He smiled once his confidence returned, and ran around the higher regions of the Hydra Marshes with vigor anew.
Peppor had had it. He had looked all over the swamps and bogs of the lower marsh, and had found neither hide nor… well, hide of the goblin (they didn’t really have hair). He desperately wished to leave, if he couldn’t conclude the mission quickly, but he promised himself to have another look around before he called it quits.
“I-I’ll bet that stupid Solt has already found it!” he grumbled to himself. “A-and not only found it, but I’ll bet he shaking killed it! Urgh… this is so shaking unfair!” Still grumbling and cursing, Peppor stepped up a rocky pass and found himself looking into a cave. He scratched his head and took a closer look, and discovered an area that he had never been in before.
“Hmm… better explore this place before I quit. I wouldn’t wanna shake on back to Sir Karsh without looking everywhere!” And so, he pulled up his dragoon’s belt and waddled inside, expecting--or, perhaps, hoping--that there would be nothing there. He kept his axe steady as he sidled inside, and since the lowest regions of his body had already been painted with the filth and pollution of the marsh, he didn’t mind getting his boots wet at all. He could only thank his lucky stars that Luccia still had two of the poison-resistant Safety Gear clothes in her possession. Even Sir Karsh could not wade through the waters of Hydra Marsh without them.
Steadily, Peppor crept into the cave, and breathed a sigh of relief when he found it was empty. However, just as he was turning around, a strange voice whispered out at him. He turned around fiercely, holding his axe tighter, and demanded to know who was there.
“C-come on out and show your shaking face!” he yelled, stuttering a little as always. The owner of the voice laughed and revealed itself, and Peppor gasped in surprise as he came face to face with the goblin he had been looking for.
“Well, human?” hissed the green menace. “I’m here! Now what?”
“Uhh…” Peppor stalled, frozen with fear and surprise, but found that he was unable to shake loose his negative feelings. The goblin laughed again and took several threatening steps closer. “D-don’t come any nearer!” shouted the pudgy dragoon. “I-I know how to fight you! A-and I have Elements! Yellow Elements!”
“I don’t think I need to care,” hissed the goblin again. “You would pose more of a problem to my stomach while I was digesting you. Ahh, so much meat to eat… Which part to chew on first…” The goblin walked closer still, and Peppor screamed as he began to blindly brandish his axe. Suddenly, when all hope seemed lost, something came crashing down from above, screaming and flailing wildly! It smashed right onto the goblin, flattening it with a powerful slam, and bounced off into the water, where it rested. Peppor recognized the object instantly.
“S-Solt! Y-you saved my shaking life! B-but where in the shaking world did you come from?!” Peppor ran over to his younger brother and tried to “shake” him conscious, but Solt had fallen far and fast, and had landed with a terrible bang. He groaned as he came to, and murmured out something nonsensical as his vision grew better.
“Urrgghh… Ohhh, what a nasty fall! Where… am I?”
“Y-you’re in a cave I found!” exclaimed Peppor as he helped Solt up. “Y-you must’ve fallen from that weak piece of ground in the upper region! I told you to be shaking careful up there!”
“Oh, I’m sorrily sorry, Peppor!” exclaimed poor Solt frantically. “But you see, it was an accidental accident! I stumbled and slipped, and the next thing I knew, I found myself in this cave of yours! And… ugh, what was it that I smashingly smashed into just now?”
“I-it was the goblin!!” exclaimed Peppor wildly, and to prove it, he pointed his axe towards the flattened creature. “Y-you shaking destroyed it when you came crashing down from above!” Solt walked over to the defeated creature, examined it, and nodded his head approvingly.
“So it’s truthfully true! I did rather save the day, didn’t I?”
“Not really,” stated Peppor bitterly. “More like… you accidentally beat the thing. But who shaking cares?! Our job is done!”
“Rightly right, Peppor!” agreed Solt zestfully. “Now that this annoyingly annoying monster has been defeated, we can bring him back to Sir Karsh and receive our greatly great reward! We may even be promoted!”
“I-I sure shaking hope so!” snapped Peppor as he helped his brother carry the squashed goblin. “A-after what we put up with, I’d say that we could be nominated all the way up to Lieutenant! Or better!” Solt and Peppor smiled victoriously, and heaved the goblin away from the marsh. They both let out groans of relief once they were back out in the fresh clean air, and shook themselves free of the mess and dirt that had accumulated around them. The two Shaker brothers, happy to have done their job, took the dead goblin straight to Fossil Valley, where the rain was just clearing up, and where Sergeant Davis received them with a measured degree of shock.
“I can’t believe this!” he exclaimed. “The Shaker Brothers actually succeeded in a mission?! What’s this world coming to!?”
“Don’t be so crassly crass,” sniffed Solt. “Just let us through, will you? Unless Sir Karsh is here personally…”
“Nah, he’s in Termina somewhere,” replied Davis. “I don’t think it’d be a good idea to drag that thing into the city, though. Nobody would like it if they saw that thing, even if it was alive. Better take it to Shadow Forest. I’ll contact somebody and send them over.”
“We are gratefully grateful!” exclaimed Solt with a wave. Davis returned the gesture with a numb salute, and allowed the two brothers to pass on into the northern regions of the main island. Shadow Forest, their next destination, was slightly less dangerous than the Hydra Marshes, and Solt and Peppor had been there before once, with the Deva Zoah. Obviously, they didn’t care who came with them, as long as they got the praise and reward they deserved.
With his arms crossed impatiently, Karsh stood overseeing the events going on in Termina. He let out a sigh, and out of old habit, began to crack his knuckles until they all popped. Still restless, he let out a grunt and looked around for somewhere to sit down. He found a bench, and walked over to rest on it. The day was beautiful and bright, with just the slightest trace of a cloud in the air--most likely the thunderstorm that was pouring over Fossil Valley. Karsh was at least glad that he was waiting in a nice dry place, but either way he looked at it, he was bored stiff.
As he sat and waited, he noticed another person coming up the long flight of stairs towards him. He let out a groan, and bolted out of his chair once he saw them. He had on a look of impatience, as always, and barked just a little as he greeted the other person.
“Hmph… thanks for keeping me waiting so long…”
“You should have just went yourself, Karsh!” replied the person. It was Glenn, a respected young knight in those parts, and he seemed just as agitated as his older companion. He continued with, “You know that your parents haven’t seen you in a long time. You could have stopped by there while you waited.”
“Nahh,” he sneered, “they’d just bug me as always. Pop would say, ‘Ah, Karsh, ah haven’t seen ya in forever! What have ye been doin’ lately, lad?’ and ma would say, ‘Ye’ve been takin’ care’a yerself lately, haven’t ye? Ya know, I think ye need to find yerself a pretty young lass to settle down with, so she can take care of you an’ ah don’ have to worry!’.” Glenn laughed out loud at Karsh’s dead-on impersonations of his parents, and patted his older friend’s shoulder.
“You’re pretty good at that,” he smiled. “But seriously, they are your parents. It is their job to worry over you. Lord knows that Radius and Dario did the same thing to me, and you did too.”
“Yeah, about eighteen years ago,” muttered Karsh. “Anyway, forget all that. I think if I let you talk anymore, you’re gonna take their side. Let’s just leave, unless you got something else to do.” Glenn shook his head, and Karsh led him down the long flight of stairs to the city entrance. Young sir Glenn had paid a brief visit to Zappa and Zippa’s house before going to the estate of Master Gogh. There had been rising suspicion surrounding that place, concerning the legitimacy of the paintings that Master Gogh had around his house. Viper Manor did not usually deal with something so minor, but it had been an issue for many years, and had to be investigated after so long a period.
“You know, Karsh… your parents are right,” said Glenn suddenly. Karsh groaned out miserably, but Glenn continued. “No, I am serious. You should really see them more often. You’re the only child they have, and you know that they love you. And… personally, I agree with your mother.”
“I told ya to keep yer mouth shut,” muttered poor Karsh. In order to avoid any more mention of his folks, he changed the subject. “Ya know, I sent the Shakers down to the Hydra Marshes to try’n capture that goblin that’s been terrorizin’ Arni village. You think they ever caught him?”
“I do not know,” answered Glenn. “A part of me hopes they did, but a bigger part of me knows that they did not. No offense, but they are not exactly the best soldiers that Lord Viper has in his employment.” Karsh silently nodded his head, and took a sigh of relief as he and Glenn left the city of Termina.
“I know what you’re saying… but… I kinda made a promise… to somebody… And, well, y’know…” Glenn did not exactly “know”, but when Karsh mentioned a promise, he could piece together the situation on his own. “Anyway,” continued the dragoon, “Sarge Davis and them wouldn’t’ve sent them to Termina if they caught the thing. Decent people don’t like seein’ monsters wanderin’ around. I’ll bet they were sent to Shadow Forest.”
“That sounds correct,” agreed Glenn. “Do you think we should go down there and check?” Karsh thought about it for awhile, and finally shook his head.
“No… no… They’ll have alerted some other person. There’d be no point for us to come, and besides, you gotta make that report. As for me, I think I’m gonna ask why Lord Viper sent me along with you.”
“I agree with that…” murmured Glenn. “That investigation was clearly a one-man job, and after all the things I did, I thought that Lord Viper would trust me to do this alone…” He shrugged, said, “Oh well,” and followed Karsh up north until they found the road that would lead them to the Manor.
Solt, Peppor, and their unmoving mass of goblin remains entered into Shadow Forest quietly. Normally, the two Shaker brothers would be squabbling about something, but this time they were suspiciously quiet. The forest was still as pristine and beautiful as ever, perhaps the last remainder of the very ancient times. The trees were more alive here than in any other place, the water was so clean and clear that it could be drank from, and the mossy ground below was so soft and fresh that a person’s footprints could be left. It was a magical, mystical place, full of awesome beauty and purity, but it also held many dangers.
Solt and Peppor laid their catch down on the ground, and stood guard over it in case any of the native bulbs, Cassowaries, or Cuscus decided to creep up on them. The Shadow Forest was usually a placid place, where the wildlife kept to themselves and rarely attacked anyone unless provoked, but there were certainly creatures in there that had a taste for goblin--and human. Upon arriving in the forest, and relieving themselves of their burden, Solt and Peppor began to scan around the area.
“Do you think we are early?” asked the lank one. The stout one shrugged.
“I-I guess so. S-Sergeant Davis said that he’d call somebody over here, but I dunno if we’re the first here or not. W-we’d better wait and see.”
“I agreeingly agree,” replied Solt with a nod of his head. He walked over to one side of the goblin and stood at attention, and Peppor took the other side. “We had better wait here,” advised the thin dragoon. “I don’t think it would be wisely wise for us to wander around.”
“Y-you can sure shake that again!” replied Peppor. He let out a sigh, squatted down on a nearby rock, and waited for the person from Viper Manor to come. Since Shadow Forest was not far away from the manor, the Shaker brothers did not have to wait long. Only ten more minutes passed before somebody came, and the Shaker brothers stood up once again to greet Freuleine Luccia and her escourt, Grobyc.
“L-lady Luccia!” exclaimed Peppor. “W-we didn’t expect to see you come all the way out here!” Luccia silently approached the goblin, not saying a single word to the brothers, and knelt down to investigate the creature. A scientist by nature and choice, the goblin was but an interesting specimen to her.
“Hmm… ah, dis ist just as I t’ought. It has received many abrasions in the cerebellum, and its cerebral cortex has been damaged. No vonder it vas behaving so erratically!”
“Uh… L-lady Luccia…?” She ignored them, and adjusted her thick glasses as she looked over the monster. Her thick accent murmured out from time to time as she spoke aloud, but it was mostly gibberish to the brothers.
“…Und it appears to haff been crushed under some great und terrible veight… Haff any of you two any knowledge of vhy dis monster vould be smashed?” She stood up and looked at the two, and though that had been the first time she spoke to them, they did not respond immediately.
“Erm… well… you see, ah… I sort of… ahh… fell onto it, by accident…”
“Ah, dat vould explain somet’ing,” she replied. Luccia carefully peered at Solt for a little while longer, then knelt down to poke and prod at the goblin. The bizarre scientist was as enigmatic as she was creepy, and though she worked in Viper Manor, she always seemed to have her own agenda. The violet-haired scientist stood up once again, rubbed her chin, and motioned at Grobyc.
“Grobyc, please assist me vith this t’ing. I cannot carry it back to the lab myself, and I do not vish it to be ruined.”
“I-understand,” spoke Grobyc. The cyborg lifted the goblin easily, and began to march away from the lab with it in his arms. Luccia paused and wiped her glasses with a handkerchief, and aimed a smile at the Shaker brothers.
“Danke Schon, Herr Shaker brothers. Please come back to Viper Manor to receive your reward. Also, the General has asked me to tell you zat he has another job for you. Ho ho, hoo…” With her trademark cackle, Luccia stepped out of the forest and rejoined Grobyc, leaving Solt and Peppor confused.
“D-did she just say what I shaking think she just said?” asked Peppor. Solt nodded his head.
“I believably believe so! The General has another mission for us! What a delightfully delightful treat! Come, Peppor! We shan’t waste any more time here!”
“R-right!” he agreed. “Even if this is some shaking joke, we should return to the manor anyway! I-I think I need a shower!”
“(And I knowingly know that you do…)” muttered Solt.
By the time Solt and Peppor arrived at Viper Manor, Karsh and Glenn had returned as well. The former gave an approving smile to his subordinates, and put in a bit of reward money as well when he heard they had finished their mission. Capturing the goblin still wasn’t merit-worthy enough to snag a promotion, but Karsh assured them both that the next mission would be twice as important, so surely an increase in rank was in order.
“So what is it that you will have us perform?” asked Solt. “We’ll be able to take on any mission you give us, Sir Karsh! Just tell us the word!”
“Y-yeah!” chimed in Peppor. “After that goblin incident, we’re feelin’ kinda invincible!”
“I dunno,” snorted Karsh warily. “From what Lady Luccia told me, you two only got through that mission because of your dumb luck. I’m not so confident about this next job…”
“But we are willingly willing to prove ourselves!” insisted Solt. “Please let us have this chance! I promise that we shan’t disappoint you!”
“But I still have my doubts,” said Karsh, still wary. “I think it’d be best if I sent a few more people in there with you…”
“Oh, come-come now, sir Karsh!” exclaimed Solt proudly. “I’m sure we’ll be able to handle any dangerously dangerous mission you give us! Try us at our word and see!” Karsh covered his mouth in thought, but only because he was trying to hide a smile. He had hoped that these two bungling brothers were fixed on going on the mission, despite its danger, and he had to admit that he felt a little more pride towards them.
“Aww, all right! I’ll give ya both a second chance!”
“Oh, th-thank you, Sir Karsh! We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!” wailed Peppor. Karsh snorted and waved their thanks away.
“Yeah, yeah… Now listen up, you guys! The General’s had his eye on the Island of the Earth dragon for some time. Ever since the big lizard vanished from that place, he’s been wanting to send an exploration team down there to check the place out. Of course, there’s gonna be a lot of amateur and professional explorers there as well, so you won’t be there all by yourselves.”
“That sounds reasonably reasonable,” said Solt. “But what will you have us do?”
“Ehh, just check the place out, and be sure to file a good report. You guys are basically gonna judge whether or not we should send a larger squad down there with some equipment. If you two think it’s too dangerous, I want ya to head back and tell us. Ain’t no sense in sending even more people there.”
“I-I think we understand,” said Peppor. “But I don’t understand why you’re shaking us on down there when you’ve been down there yourself! …Haven’t you?”
“Nah, I don’t think so. Nobody from Viper Manor’s ever set foot on that place, and since you guys seem so eager to prove yourselves, I’m sendin’ you down first. That sounds good?”
“It sounds excellently excellent!!” exclaimed Solt happily. Peppor agreed.
“W-what he said.”
“Right. There’s a boat in Termina that leaves tomorrow, so why don’t you two get on it? Rest up for now; you’ve earned it.” Karsh smiled faintly and walked away, leaving Solt and Peppor to smile happily.
“Did you hear that, Peppor?” said the thin man. “We’re going on a mission that seldom have ever been on! And our word shall be the basis for everyone else here in the Manor to reliably rely upon! I’d say that our importance here has grown!”
“Y-you can sure shake that again, Solt!” agreed the stout man. “W-well, I guess we’d better go to our rooms. If this place is gonna be as dangerous as Sir Karsh says, then I wanna shake up and rest as much as I can. So, so long!” With a wave, Solt ran towards his room, and Peppor followed soon after. Tomorrow, they would most certainly be able to prove to Karsh, and everyone else in Viper Manor, that they could accomplish things with as much competence as anyone else.
Solt and Peppor had been awake and sailing for quite some time. After preparing in the manor, they journeyed over to Termina and took the first boat that was destined for Earth Dragon Island. The trip was not long since the small desert spit of land was so close, and the two Shaker Brothers were already anxious to start exploring. There was a second boat close to theirs, containing the rarely-seen third member of the infamous duo, Ketchop Bottle. Ketchop was a ferocious dragoon, and could have been made a Deva if only his brain were as great as his brawn. He rarely even spoke, except in very big roars, and was so large that he had to fit in a boat all by himself.
“I still don’t know why they asked Sir Ketchop to accompany us,” said Solt as the boat puttered closer to the island. “He isn’t sent on very many jobs. He’s more of the security type than a soldier.”
“Y-yeah, but I ain’t gonna question Karsh or the General,” replied Peppor. “If they give us Ketchop to shake up with, then there ain’t nothing we can do about it.”
“Rightly right,” sighed Solt. “Ah well. The old chap will at least not be a burdensome burden.” The Shaker brothers stole a glance over at the other boat, and saw Ketchop sitting there, an eternally-unknown look on his face. On the surface, he seemed to be a passive and slightly stupid character, not really aware of things outside of a battle, and prone to be terribly strong and vicious once he got going. But beneath all that…… Well, there really was not much else…
“Anyway,” said Peppor, “we’re almost there. Hey, Ketchop, are you ready to land?” Ketchop wheeled his bulbous head around and sneered, as usual.
“He seems eagerly eager to start… maybe?” shrugged Solt. He personally docked the boat on the island, and Ketchop docked his, and together, the three dragoons stood out and surveyed the land.
“Well, first things first,” said Peppor. He took out a clipboard with a sheet of paper, and began writing down descriptions of the island. “Really shaking hot, and dry, with plenty of sand to go around, and not a whole lot of shade. The beaches seem pretty shaking worthless to me.”
“SAAAAAAAUUUUCE!!!” bellowed Ketchop, gesturing towards the main land of the island. Solt, the second-tallest of the trio, stood on his tip-toes and tried peering over the dunes that obscured his view.
“He seems to have seen something… perhaps?” Solt walked on ahead and up the dune to see what Ketchop was screaming about, and as Peppor followed his younger brother, he continued to write up the report. “Shaking empty, probably not even a single explorer left. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to come to this desolate place, except for bragging rights. Further investigation pending.”
When Peppor caught up with Solt and Ketchop, he noticed that the island was even smaller than he thought. There was a gigantic empty area, full of rocks and crushed pebbles and more sand around than anyone could measure, and in the great distance, Peppor could just make out the image of the sea. There were several rocky plateaus that rose up out of the land, and a bridge that connected some of them together. Beyond and beneath the bridge was a large hole, probably leading down into the deepest parts of the island. In the distance, a small chain of hilly mountains could be seen, bordering the other side of the island.
“Impressively impressive!” remarked Solt as he shielded his eyes from the sun. “But also emptily empty. Mark that down in your ledger, will you Peppor?” Peppor wrote down a basic description of the place, and Ketchop walked on past the plateaus and underneath the narrow bridge. He was just large enough to squeeze under without disturbing the construction, and growled softly before he came to the hole.
“H-he seems pretty shaking curious… I think…” remarked Peppor. He finished writing about the island, and joined his larger and less intelligent comrade. All three golden-plated dragoons peered down the hole, and each wondered what in spice’s name was down there--but of course, none were willing to try.
“He doesn’t seem enthusiastically enthusiastic… perhaps,” remarked Solt. “Neither am I, since I am faced with this perilous peril. Alas, Sir Karsh sent us to this wasteland, and here we are, being stopped only by a holey hole!”
“W-w-w-w-w-well, I w-want m-my p-promotion!” stuttered Peppor, more terribly than he usually did. “A-and I a-ain’t g-gonna l-let a s-s-stupid hole s-s-stand in my sh-sh-shaking way!” He froze, as if he were really considering going down there, but of course, once frozen, he dared not to move. Ketchop grew impatient, and bellowed for his comrades to find their backbones.
“He seems rather agitated… I guess,” noted Solt. “I think he wants us to jump in.”
“Y-y-yikes!” quivered Peppor as he realized what Ketchop had in mind. “N-no! D-don’t! K-Ketchop! Th-think this through, m-man!”
“You’re insanely insane!” shrieked Solt. “Stop! Desist! Ack, you don’t knowingly know what you’re doing!!”
“………KETCHOOOOOOOOOP!!!!” With a mighty push, Ketchop shoved both Solt and Peppor into the hole, and dove after them, screaming something about tomato sauce. Solt and Peppor landed stiffly in a bed of sand, rather dirtying themselves upon impact, and stood up once their bodies didn’t seem so wounded. When Ketchop landed, however, the whole island shook, and he came so close to crushing Solt and Peppor that their skin turned white.
“Jumping Jehosephat!” screamed Solt as he dove for cover. Peppor swore, and found himself plunging into the sand face-first, which was hardly dignifying. The poor dragoon shook himself loose from the sand, spat out whatever managed to get into his mouth, and glared at Ketchop in all his bullish stupidity.
“YOU MORON! WHY IN SPICE’S NAME DO WE PUT UP WITH YOU, ANYWAY? WE COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED!”
“I agreeingly agree!” snapped Solt. “Ketchop, that was stupidly stupid of you! Not only did you shove us into foreign territory, but we could have shared the same fate as that unfortunately unfortunate goblin I smashed earlier! Have you no mind of these things??!”
“H-he sounds pretty shaking ashamed… I think…” murmured Peppor. “A-anyway, we’re down here now, and I can only hope and pray that we can shake ourselves outta here! Ketchop, since you got us into this mess, you go find a way to get us back out!”
“He still sounds shamefully ashamed, I suppose,” remarked Solt. Ketchop lumbered off into the dark cave anyway, but Solt and Peppor could tell that he was there because the ground rumbled every time he took a step (at least they thought that was the reason why the whole place was shaking. They didn’t want to consider earthquakes in a place like that).
Looking around them, Solt and Peppor were slightly amazed at what they saw. The cave was dark, but it still glowed with a golden light that enabled them to see most everywhere around them. Waterfalls of sand spilled down from the world above, slowly filling the area with more and more grains. These grains poured down into the multiple lairs below--three lairs, approximately. Solt and Peppor were at the highest level, where the sand had accumulated into a small pool of crumbly grains. They followed the rivers further down, splitting up to go in separate directions.
Above them, stalactites clung to the ceiling of the cave, and the dripping water that had condensed around them fell into the sand every once in awhile. All of the lairs eventually led down to a much larger ocean of sand, which was slightly darker since it was so far down from the surface. No underworld creatures had been spotted yet, but then again, neither of the brothers had gotten far. Suddenly, a vicious explosion sound could be heard, like that of a giant wine cork being popped, and when the brothers turned to see what the disturbance was, they were amazingly amazed!!
Ketchop, in all his base ignorance, had accidentally discovered the geyser that would send him back to the surface world. The explosion had merely been the pressure of the geyser rocketing him back up to the surface, where he probably was right then, scratching his head and wondering how he had gotten up there.
“Oh, deary dear!” wailed Solt. “Ketchop, you fool! Blast, he’s gone already!”
“W-well, at least he found a way out,” noted Peppor. Solt had to agree, but since they had not yet explored the whole island, they could not utilize it just then. With little other choice, the Shaker brothers moved on, into the deep regions of the cave.
They came to a very large opening, with two lairs: one of them being bare and rocky and suspended just over the sand, the other being the sand itself. They awed at the sight, and immediately began scribbling down notes in their ledgers. After wearing their hands out writing, Solt and Peppor carefully crept across the rocky bridges that teetered over the pits of sand. They leaped down onto a lower lair, and continued to follow that for a little while. The pit of sand, just across from them, had several geysers already sucking in the grains of sand and anything else small enough to fit inside. Though Solt and Peppor were far from brilliant, they knew better than to get themselves caught in one of those things.
There was a rocky ledge above them that they had to struggle to climb up, and once they crossed this all the way, they found themselves in yet another room. This one had little space but plenty of height, but as it was with all the other rooms, it was completely abandoned. There was even a dead end; a great rocky wall that ascended all the way up to a large platform, and beneath it, another pit of sand. Slightly disappointed that they had came all that way for nothing, the Shaker brothers turned around and began to search for the geyser that Ketchop had discovered.
Intruders… leave ye not so quickly…
“W-w-what in the shaking world was that?” wailed Peppor nervously. Solt shivered in his boots, creating an awful noise as his armor chattered.
“I… I have… not an absolutely absolute idea…! But whatever it is, I don’t wish to encounter it! Let’s escape while we can!”
“R-right! Shake it on outta here!”
THOU SHALT NOT LEAVE!!!
Suddenly, a terrifying creature of mammoth size slammed into the ground, shivering the entire world as if a hundred Ketchops had just fallen from the sky. Solt and Peppor froze solid as the creature towered intimidating over them, and were just shocked enough to soil themselves. It looked kind of like a cross between a panther, a lion, and an eagle, and was easily the most beautiful and terrible and powerful thing that either of them had ever seen.
“I am the Criospinx, keeper of this sacred lair,” it spoke in a booming voice. “Thou hast defiled mine lair with thine presence, and for that, thou shalt reap the benedictions of mine vengeance!”
“…Mommy…” croaked Solt. Peppor nearly fainted.
“Yet I be a merciful creature, and if thou canst answer mine riddles, thou shalt be able to free thyself from mine lair… Answer me this, humans! A valuable mineral, precious for the ancient’s salary, used to season even the most bland of appetites! What be this that I speak of?” For a long time, both Shaker brothers stood perfectly still, unable to even croak out an answer. Slowly, Peppor turned to his brother and squealed desperately.
“Thou art correct,” replied the Criosphynx proudly. “SALT be the answer. Now, answer me a third question. As it is ground, from the stones of a plant grown, seasoned to spice, in colors of both dark and red, a painful treat for the tongue. What be this I speak of?”
“Thou art correct,” replied the Criosphynx proudly. “PEPPER be the answer. Now, answer me a final question! Round fruit, red as blood, running thin and fast when cut, yet harmless and healthy, added unto the foods for added taste. What be this I speak of?” Solt and Peppor stood petrified before the Criosphynx, utterly lost and unable to give it an answer. A long pause passed, and when it seemed that the large creature was growing impatient, a distant voice could be heard.
“Thou art correct,” replied the Criosphynx proudly. “TOMATO be the answer. Humans, thou hast proved thine worth here to me, and for that, I respect thee. Be gone, and may you find good fortune!” The creature vanished from sight, leaving no memory of its existence at all, except for two very dumbfounded dragoons, who had just been saved by the most unlikely person, in the most unlikely circumstance. Slowly, once he recovered from the shock of it all, Peppor turned towards his brother and sighed.
“W-well, how do you like that!!”
When Solt and Peppor returned to the first room, where the exit geyser was, they saw that their savior Ketchop had been falling from the surface and shooting back up again that entire time!! Every time, he would plummet down and laugh, and would run over to the geyser and squeal as it shot him up again. The ceiling quaked under his trembling sprint, and in no time at all, Ketchop could be seen falling back down once again.
“KETCHOP!” screamed Solt. “You knowingly know that that is not a toy! Now stop zipping back and forth! You’re making us dizzily dizzy!”
“Yeah, and m-make room for us!” shouted Peppor. “W-we’re shaking outta here, so you’d better get back to your boat if you know what’s good for you!” Ketchop wailed out in disappointment as he was forced to stop having fun, and sailed back up to the surface one more time. He didn’t return, to the gratefulness of the Shakers, and it finally seemed as if the mission would draw to a close, no matter how weird, disappointing, or unbelievable it had been. Peppor summed it all up as he faced his brother.
“S-so do you think they’re gonna believe us when we show them that report? I mean, considering everything that’s happened?”
“It’s all unbelievably unbelievable,” noted Solt wisely. “Imagine, the two of us exploring these caves and finding nothing at all, except for a gigantically gigantic creature with more power in it than the entire Acacia Army! Truly, this will be one that nobody believes!”
“A-and they’re gonna laugh at us!” wailed Peppor. “W-we’ll never be accepted now!” Solt shrugged, and walked over to the geyser.
“Maybe not… but it would make a smashingly smashing good story anyway, wouldn’t you agree?”
“I sure shaking would, Solt. I sure shaking would…”
The Truly True, Shaking End